Arizona Trail – Passage 12 – Up, Up and Away

Dates Hiked: March 11-12, 2015 (Days 9-10)
Direction: Southbound
Passage 12: Oracle Ridge
-American Flag Road to Romero Pass
-Miles: 22.1
-Elevation: Low Point 4,431′, High Point 7,963′

Direction of Travel: Right to Left (Southbound)

Although the High Jinks Gold Mine Ranch property is listed on the water report as an available source, the “private” sign at the entry made us a bit wary. However, we were immediately greeted by the owner/caretaker who showed us the location of the water spigot, encouraging us to take a few minutes to look around. The placard indicates Buffalo Bill Cody mined gold and silver at this location, it was easy to imagine this country 100 years previous.

As we climbed up from Oracle valley toward Oracle Ridge, the landscape changed dramatically.

Soft single track turned to rocky ATV roads, at times with extremely steep grade, making us dream of gentle switchbacks. Notice the steep road in the distance climbing straight up the mountain. We met a few groups of ATV riders, all of whom were kind and genuinely interested in and impressed with our endeavor.

Composite rocks became more prevalent.

Rocks of many colors, shapes and sizes kept us company.

When we found ourselves back on single track along Oracle Ridge, we wondered why we’d dreamed of escaping ATV tracks. There were so many stickery prickeries on this overgrown trail, and the most bear scat we’d seen thus far.

85,000 acres in the Mount Lemmon / Summerhaven areas burned in the 2003 Aspen Fire.

The trail bypasses Mount Lemmon but travels through the community of Summerhaven, still in the process of being rebuilt after the fire. We arrived at the Sawhouse Mill Restaurant with an hour to spare before closure. 

Imagine our surprise when we found our first real creek. We were beyond giddy with joy!

And then we found a forest, with real trees! Camping among our green friends with the nearby bubbling brook and a soft bed of pine needles made for my best night’s sleep to date on the trail. Can you smell the pine? Ahhhhh . . . .

Of course we loved the soft pine needle padded trail, but alas the pull south moved us into new terrain.

We were quickly drawn into Wilderness of Rocks which reminded me a bit of the Tahoe Donner area.

I bet you thought this would be my section without flowers, but you’d be wrong.

This passage includes an overlap with the Sky Islands Traverse. I’d never heard of Sky Islands previously, and was extremely intrigued by these isolated mountain ranges housing unique fauna and flora species.

Sharing the Trail:

  • Big Sky and 3 friends, hiking northbound (NOBO) with the goal of completing the entire 800-mile trail. Two of the group had taken the Pusch Wilderness alternate trail. They began their journey north on 3/1.
  • Beardoh! SweetPea and QBall, another group of northbounders attempting to complete the entire trail. Check out their blog under Long Distance Hiker, and their post from the day we met. They began on March 3rd, the same day we did.
  • A young couple struggling under quite an excessive and unwieldy load.

Tips and Resources:

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